BOURBONNAIS, Ill. - An 18-point first half deficit proved to be too much for the HU women’s basketball team to overcome as they dropped a 77-70 decision to 9th-ranked St. Xavier University Friday night at the Holiday Inn Express Classic hosted by Olivet Nazarene University.
With this loss, Coach Culler’s squad drops to 4-3 while SXU improves to 5-3.
Unfortunately it was a typical start for the Foresters as they struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the first half to which the Cougars took full advantage. While Huntington shot 50.0 percent from the floor, it was 14 turnovers that spelled disaster as St. Xavier cashed in on 15 points from HU’s double digit miscues on their way to a 45-27 advantage by intermission.
The second half was a completely different story as Coach Culler’s squad committed only four turnovers and made a living at the free throw line where they were a perfect 24-for-24. Defense was also a key for Huntington as they held the Cougars to 36.7 percent shooting in the final period after SXU’s sizzled the nets for 58.1 percent in the first half.
Both teams played even to start the second half as 18 points still separated the squads with just over 14 minutes remaining but HU’s march to the free throw line started to pay off as three different Foresters knocked down two freebies to go along with an Amelia Recker rebound bucket to trim the lead to 12, 55-43, with only two minutes having passed.
With momentum clearly favoring Huntington, senior Pazia Speed drained a three in the corner to finally chop the lead to single digits at 64-56 with just under seven minutes remaining. Huntington went on to score on their next four possessions which included a pair of traditional three-point plays by HU’s lone stateswoman to cut the lead to a mere five points by the 3:24 mark but they would get no closer as the Cougars were able to stave off the comeback-minded Foresters for the win.
Courtney Baker enjoyed team-high honors in scoring with 16 points, eight of which came by way of the charity stripe. Recker finished with 14 points and a team-high six rebounds while classmate Kelsey Hubble tossed in another 12.
Saddled on the bench in foul trouble much of the game, Speed did most of her damage in the final seven minutes by scoring 11 points and swiping two steals.
Niara Harris topped St. Xavier with 18 points, Suzie Broski finished with 16 points and Morgan Stuut added 15 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Cougars entered the contest ranked 14th in the nation in field goal percentage (.457) and 2nd in free throw percentage (.814). While they lived up to their billing from the floor by shooting 29-for-61 for 47.5 percent to HU’s 41.3 percent (19-for-46); the Foresters got the best of SXU at the line.
Huntington finished 29-for-31 from the charity stripe for 93.5 percent while the St. Xavier capitalized on only 13 of their 20 attempts for 65.0 percent.
HU is back in action Saturday afternoon when they face the host Olivet Nazarene Tigers at 3:00 p.m. CST.